8 Apps That Help You Make eBooks

Amazon may be quietly locking out its competition with ebook creation apps like the newly released Kindle Creator, but not all ebook creation apps tie you down to a single distribution channel.

Even iBooks Author can make and export Epub3 files now, and that's not the only app authors can use to make ebooks.

Here's a double handful of apps and online services which can make ebooks (let me know if I missed one you like).

First, here's the free app I use:

Sigil

Sigil is not the best app on this list but when it comes to free alternatives there is simply no comparison.

I found it easy to learn with an intuitive interface that did everything I wanted, and I am still waiting for a good reason to switch to another app like:

Jutoh

Jutoh is an ebook creation tool for all platforms (including the Raspberry Pi). It can make ebooks in all the popular formats and, aloing with Scrivener, comes highly recommended (although there is a vim/emacs divide in the author cimmunoty over which is better).

Vellum

Vellum is a macOS-only app which costs so much that I can't come up with a good reason to buy it.

It is a rather expensive app and costs either $200 for an unlimited license or $10 to $30 for each title. That is rather pricey when compared to the free apps much less the paid alternatives like:

Scrivener

Scrivener is the one paid app everyone recommends - including those who don't use it.

It is a complex and feature-rich app which is designed to cover all the steps in the process of creating a book rather than just the act of making an ebook. It has always been way more than what I required, but many authors swear by it.

Calibre

Calibre is known as the best ebook library tool, free or paid, but it can also make ebooks in just about any format you can name. You can even use it to edit ebooks, although you shouldn't distribute them to other professionals.

While I use calibre to convert ebooks and manage my library, I also know that it is widely hated by many in the digital publishing industry. Calibre makes ebooks which look okay, but the code is absolutely atrocious (Calibre-made ebooks have even been banned by Amazon once or twice).

Caveat Emptor.

Calligra

Calligra is the office suite which used to be known as KOffice way back when. It was originally developed for Linux systems and has since been ported to Windows, macOS, freeBSD.

Calligra has included an ebook export option since 2012, although I am not sure very many people are using it.

eBookBurn

eBookBurn is a paid web service I have been meaning to try. It costs $19 to export an ebook in Epub and Kindle formats, but you can set up as many ebooks - or parts of an ebook - as you like.

Pressbooks

Do you know how they say that a third of the web runs on WordPress?

That includes Pressbooks. This paid service lets you upload (or type) parts of a book, edit them, and then export an ebook in Epub, PDF, or Kindle format.

Everything except for the last step is free, and you can even set your preferred formatting as CSS. what's more, WP is designed to publish to the web, and Pressbooks takes advantage of this. You like you can upload a book and then show it off and get feedback.

About Nate Hoffelder (10619 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

15 Comments on 8 Apps That Help You Make eBooks

  1. You should include http://www.reedsy.com in that list. On a similar usability level as Vellum but with many great additional features including print-ready PDF export.

  2. Atlantis Word Processor, which I’ve been recommending for several years, exports to EPUB beautifully. I don’t use it because it doesn’t fit my workflow process, but it was way ahead of the curve. http://www.atlantiswordprocessor.com/en/

    • Not sure how they stay in business because you never hear about them but Atlantis has been my favorite for at least 5 years. Those who haven’t tried it, should.

  3. I can’t sing Sigil’s praises enough, especially with some of the killer plugins available. I use epub3-itizer, kindle maker, epubcheck, and a okugin to automagically insert Apple’s wonky little code.

  4. “although you shouldn’t distribute them to other professionals”

    Other professionals aren’t buying my books. Ordinary people are, and they’ll never, ever look at the source code. Who’s *your* audience?

    • Occasionally, Amazon will reject books made from Calibre because they’re so bad, but I suspect that’s for a more complicated book than fiction.

    • I think you have to be careful regardless, because the indie publishing revolution has ensured that some of our readers in fact *are* professionals. I manage a nano-press and have published both my own work and that of others fairly extensively, but I remain a voracious reader (as all writers tend to). And you’re probably right I don’t look at source code, but if I open a badly formatted book (extra space between paragraphs that aren’t indented, e.g.), I close it and get a refund. This is why we need to be make sure we’re doing our best with things like editing, proofreading, layout, formatting, and cover design. Being cavalier about such things is detrimental not only to one’s own brand but indie publishing-dom in general.

  5. there is also a good number of iOS apps to make iBooks as well as kindle ebooks like Daedalus and Creative Book Builder.

  6. Aside from my favorite, Atlantis, you should also add the on-line Papyrus to your list http://papyrus.yourstory.com/

  7. I have Jutoh on my Raspberry Pi (it is free).

    There’s also at least one editor for iOS: Easy ePub Creator Pro ($4.99). Does both reflow and FXL.

  8. Thank’s for your text. I use viewporter http://viewporter.com/viewporter_editor/ I don’t know why not a lot of people use it. It’s very good.

  9. “Calibre makes ebooks which look okay, but the code is absolutely atrocious”

    Come on Nate, you know that Calibre (the converter) and Calibre’s “Edit Book” are separate things.*

    Calibre’s editor is functionally equivalent to Sigil. Anything that can be done in Sigil can be done in Calibre’s editor and vice versa.

    Yes, Calibre can convert from Format X (DOCX/ODT/…) to Format Y (EPUB/AZW/KF8) and sometimes create some hideous code, but that is a separate issue.**

    —–

    * You can reach Calibre’s editor by right clicking a book in Calibre and pressing “Edit book”.

    ** And highly dependent on how clean your input is. If you have a properly styled DOCX in, you will get a clean EPUB out. If you pushed every single button in Microsoft Word and never used styles, you may get hideous code.

    “(Calibre-made ebooks have even been banned by Amazon once or twice).”

    The only Amazon-approved way to submit books to Amazon is by using Amazon’s KindlePreviewer or Kindlegen.

    Converting to those formats using Calibre should only be for personal usage, or non-commercial usage (like if you were uploading public domain books to share on MobileRead).

    Want to sell on Amazon though? Better use their official tools.

  10. There’s one simple reason to buy Vellum; of the apps you mentioned, it’s the best. The cost of access is high, given, as you note, that it’s not only $200 but also Mac-only, but honestly, having used nearly every app you mentioned (first I’ve heard of Calligrapha), Vellum is perfect at what it does.

    And having just tried Kindle Create, the latter is basically a cross-platform, Kindle-only version of Vellum.

    I’ve reviewed both on Exciting Press. Here’s for Vellum:

    http://exciting.press/hot/vellum-best-thing-happen-authors-since-kindle/

  11. Bookbinder is a new, web-based formatting tool I’ve been working on. It offers lots of features that are missing in other apps (tables, internal link, custom fonts) and it’s really easy to use.

    Check it out:
    https://bookbinder.co

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